We talk a lot on the ol’ blog about fear. I don’t actually know why that is - maybe it’s because your friendly neighbourhood blogger had some fear issues growing up related with the pressures of being a hockey player, or perhaps he just likes to watch the audience squirm.
Or laugh. He hasn’t figured it out yet.
Anyways, what terrified you when you were an athlete? Wait, sorry, you’re still an athlete of course. However, chances are you’re not currently competing at the same level of competition as your children.
Whether they’re swimming, skating, running, tennis-ing or playing chess (as my little buddy Max Chelico likes to play), you want them to overcome their fears and experience success - success we may or may not have been fortunate enough to experience for ourselves.
But this ain’t about us - it’s about understanding the nature of fear and helping our children overcome it.
So what are they scared of?
First and foremost, young athletes are afraid of not being as good as their peers. I will tell you the key to overcoming this particular brand of fear right now, and it’s up to you to pass along the message:
It’s ok to not be as good as that player or that swimmer. Once an athlete realizes they don’t need to define themselves as the peer of someone else - that they can define themselves as their own individual person, this fear evaporates.
This is stone cold fact. I’ve watched hockey players (and their parents) devastated by being released in atom relax over the years and realize they don’t have any responsibility to be as good as someone else. The change in both athlete and parent is profound as they begin to worry about themselves and the factors they control.
Have this conversation with your children. Today. Or tomorrow. But no later than that!
You’ll be amazed at what happens in the long run.
Whether you’re playing a team sport like hockey or an individual-based sport like swimming, the reality is the same: we all want to impress and perform for our teammates. Athletes have nightmares about forgetting their skates and being unable to play or forgetting how to hold their tennis racquet all because they are mortified at the possibility of letting down a teammate.
And no, sorry, I don’t have a cure for this. And truthfully, I don’t believe we should cure our children of this fear.
Lacking empathy for others is what’s wrong with society. Yeah, I went there. If more people worried about their teammates - their co-workers, their acquaintances, the people who pour their Starbucks double half-caff’s with foam - well, maybe then the world would be a better place.
For instance, I sure as hell don’t want to let my readers down when it comes to the blog. So far so good, right guys?
The most important teammates of all. The teammate who cooks the pre-game meal. The teammate who cheers from the bleachers. The teammate who facilitates the understanding and dedication of a sport. The teammate who birthed the teammate who birthed the player.
Parents and grandparents are our children’s most important teammates even if the children don’t realize it. It’s not in their nature to thank someone for an action that’s status quo, so instead of worrying about appreciation, just worry about nurturing a caring, hard-working and dedicated human being.
If you do that, then no one will have anything to be afraid of.
… except sharks. Except man-eating sharks that can also walk on land.
(Just trying to lighten the mood a little.)